This is it! You’ve made the decision to try for a baby using In Vitro Fertilisation, IVF! It’s exciting and you’re hopeful, but starting your IVF journey can also be an overwhelming experience. So what should you expect when you decide to do IVF treatment or begin an IVF cycle?
It’s natural to be a little nervous. There’s so much to do that you simply don’t have time to think. Your mind is bombarded: Learning about injecting medications, completing consent forms, paying bills, doing blood tests! You’re constantly busy and feel like you are taking a plunge into a whole new world.
Preparing for an IVF treatment cycle is very similar to preparing for an overnight hike. You have a destination, but you need to know how you are going to get there and what you’ll encounter along the way. For the best chance of success you need to have the right clothes and equipment. You also need nutrition and emergency supplies.
For safety you need at least one other person with you. You also want to be in a good frame of mind so that the experience is enjoyable.
At the Trinidad and Tobago IVF and Fertility Centre we understand. Our team has been working in the IVF field for many decades. We’ve been on this journey with thousands of patients. And we’ve helped bring more than 2,600 babies into the world!
We have listened and learned from each and every brave patient who has gone through IVF treatment at our clinics. Some of us have even been through fertility treatment ourselves! We are here to help you know what to expect when you take that plunge into the exciting world of IVF!
Preparing for IVF Treatment
Knowing what to expect on your IVF treatment journey is vital. The first step, our free IVF nurse consultation, tells you everything you need to know. It is your road map from where you are now to parenthood. Our expert fertility nurses will guide and inform you on what to expect, day by day, on your journey. Knowledge is power. You are stronger once you know your journey’s route.
Amy’s Experience (a true patient story with the name changed to protect privacy): “The atmosphere was calm and soothing. They were so good at explaining everything in the simplest way.”
Getting you to a good place mentally is also a vital part of preparing you for IVF treatment. That’s why we offer a free visit with our experienced fertility counsellors to everyone choosing IVF treatment at our centre. We’ll help you deal with relationship issues. We’ll share tips for managing anxiety and depression. And, sometimes, we’ll help arrange more intensive therapy or treatment.
Our counsellors will prepare you for both a positive pregnancy outcome and a negative treatment outcome. Facing the possibility of both results helps you manage your expectations better so you’re mentally prepared for whatever happens.
Shannon’s experience (a true patient story with the name changed to protect privacy): “I started an IVF cycle with TTIVF and to my surprise, my partner and I had to undergo a counselling session. The session was very emotional for us, but the counsellor gave us the hope that we so desperately needed.
We discussed what plans were in place if we received another negative outcome; honestly, I was a little taken aback by that question, as I never prepared myself before for a negative outcome. After leaving her office, I told my husband that I felt relieved and that a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt calm, hopeful, and happy.”
IVF Treatment Complications
There might be complications along your IVF journey. The good news is that for 99% of patients, IVF is safe with no medical complications. IVF is not painful. The medications used are low risk. The procedures are simple and non-surgical. The possibility of complications like bleeding and infection are very small.
And IVF has become even safer in the last 10 years! A new trigger injection, called an agonist trigger shot, has removed the biggest IVF complication: OHSS or overstimulation of the ovaries. This used to be a big worry, occurring in around two to three women in every 100 IVF cases.
OHSS can happen to any woman having IVF. The ovaries over-respond to the egg-growing injections, becoming swollen and over-grown with too many eggs. This leads to problems like fluid accumulation in the abdomen and abdominal and back pain.
But now, with the new agonist trigger shot, IVF treatment has become dramatically safer for women. If OHSS looks like it might be starting, we avoid the problem by using the safe trigger shot, collecting the eggs and then freezing all the embryos.
This “freeze-all” cycle avoids all the complications of OHSS. The embryos are thawed out and transferred into the womb a few weeks later when everything has gone back to normal. This type of cycle is called a frozen embryo cycle.
Preparing for an IVF Cycle
Preparing for an IVF cycle also means preparing for a pregnancy. Everyone wants their IVF journey to end with a baby. A good fertility team always wants every IVF cycle to end with the healthiest possible baby. At Trinidad and Tobago IVF and Fertility Centre we prepare you for pregnancy before your IVF cycle has even started.
You need a healthy body and mind for pregnancy! A good multivitamin supplement for women that contains Folic Acid is essential to ensure your baby has all the nutrients it will need to grow safely. We will check for other medical issues with some simple blood tests. Thyroid issues and a low blood count (anaemia) are common conditions that can be easily corrected before your IVF cycle.
For men, a daily multivitamin may help prepare your spermHow is a surgical sperm retrieval done? to have the best chance of fertilising the eggs.
To get ready for your IVF cycle you should try and exercise three times a week and aim for regular sleep patterns. The more consistent you are with the times you go to sleep and wake up, the better your sleep quality might be.
A healthy diet with at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended. Avoid soft drinks, junk and processed foods and reduce alcohol drinking to low levels or not at all.
Your IVF Treatment Result: The Waiting Game
Once you have completed the IVF treatment you will have the wait for your pregnancy result. This two week wait is a time when you may find your emotions are all over the place. Some people find sleeping and eating difficult. Our best advice is to prepare yourself for this time well in advance. This is where talking to friends and family, or experienced clinic fertility counsellors, can be hugely helpful.
Plan to be kind and loving to yourself during this time. I’ll share three tips from some of our IVF patients that may help you. They are simple but very true!
Tip #1 – Forgive yourself and don’t play the blame game. “I have had to learn to forgive myself because when there is no one else to blame, you inevitably blame yourself for why this has happened and is still happening.”
Tip #2. If you have bad days, talk about it. Friends, family, professionals. They are all there for you and happy to support you. “It is OK to not be OK!”
Tip #3. Squash the anxiety. “Quiet that voice in your head that magnifies your greatest fears. Take a deep breath and face everything head on, step by step… you’ll be stronger for it.”
After IVF Treatment
This is what is often left out – what happens after IVF? What can you expect? The truth is everyone is different and the outcome is going to be something you cannot predict.
If you are pregnant from the treatment cycle, congratulations! You are one of the lucky one in every three couples who have a baby with IVF treatment. You will be on medication for the first 10-12 weeks of your pregnancy and will need an ultrasound scan to see how your baby is doing.
In our centre we see all our patients for their early pregnancy scan around two to three weeks after their positive pregnancy test. This is the last visit to the fertility centre for most pregnant women. For the next phase of your journey you’ll visit regularly with your obstetrician.
IVF pregnancies are like any other pregnancy at this point and your obstetric doctor will guide you through your options for a safe delivery of your baby. Many women who conceive with IVF have a normal delivery, and having a C-section after IVF treatment is not always needed.
But sometimes things don’t go well. There are two fairly common possibilities.
First, the pregnancy might end in a miscarriage. This is commoner than you might realise. At least one in every five pregnancies will miscarry and IVF is no different to pregnancies conceived the natural way. You should not lose hope. Most miscarriages are not going to re-occur. Women who have had a miscarriage with IVF are more likely to get pregnant with IVF again and have a baby than women who have never had a pregnancy.
When a miscarriage happens after IVF treatment, our expert fertility doctors will review your situation. They will recommend tests where required and discuss your options to get pregnant again and have a live birth.
A second possibility is a negative result for your IVF treatment. The bottom line is that seven out of every ten couples having IVF treatment have a negative result. There are counsellors in our clinic who will guide you through this emotional time.
Part of the healing process after a negative cycle is discussing the IVF treatment cycle with your fertility doctor. Reviewing what went well and where problems showed up is so very important! Your fertility doctor may ask you to do some more detailed fertility tests, for example, tests looking at sperm quality or the quality of the womb lining.
Learning from an IVF cycle helps your doctor advise you on further treatment options that will give you the best chance of having a baby. While everyone hopes to be lucky the first time around, it is actually very common to have multiple IVF cycles on your journey to parenthood. Indeed, recent research has shown that going through multiple rounds of IVF actually increases the chances of having a baby.
A case in point is our lovely friend Shannon. Here’s more of her story: “My special light at the end of a dark and lonely tunnel was my experience with the counsellor… and the team at TTIVF. IVF entailed a lot of our involvement, but we were excited to get this treatment and have our baby.
My prayers were answered on that afternoon in April after getting a call that my blood result was positive. I was so glad that I did a urine pregnancy test the next morning just to make sure.
Unfortunately, I miscarried at 8 weeks; I was so angry that I blamed myself. I called TTIVF and told them what had happened and before the day had passed I got a phone call from the counsellor. She took the time to comfort me and was just there to listen to the muffling words between my sobbing.
I decided to do another IVF cycle, and today I have my bouncing baby boy and could not be happier”